June is Filipino Heritage Month in Canada – a month dedicated to highlighting the contributions Canadians of Filipino descent have made and continue to make to the social, economic and cultural fabric of Canada.
The Filipino community is one of fastest growing communities in Canada and B.C. Today, Canada is home to nearly one million people of Filipino descent. In B.C., Filipinos have a long history dating back to the 1880’s when a small community lived on Bowen Island. Now more than 150,000 Filipinos call the province home.
Rachna Singh, Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives, and Mable Elmore, MLA for Vancouver-Kensington, released a joint statement in celebration. “The pandemic has challenged British Columbians in many ways over the past year, particularly those who work in the child care and health-care sector, caring for the elderly and those who are unwell, while raising and inspiring our younger generations. We are grateful to the many Filipinos working in these sectors for their dedication and selflessness as they have worked on the frontlines to keep fellow British Columbians safe.”
It’s estimated there are over one hundred Filipinos living in the Columbia Valley. It’s a lively community. In past years, there have been great big Filipino Christmas parties held at the Legion.
Another aspect of Filipino heritage is sport, basketball being the country’s most popular sport. With the recent easing of pandemic related restrictions, outdoor sporting activities have already sprung to life. The Columbia Valley Basketball League meets up once or twice a week, and there is always a large contingent of eager Filipino basketball players.
Whenever there is something to celebrate, like a birthday or a wedding, Filipinos come together and have a good time. I asked Grace Lamson (who immigrated to Canada in 2013) if she was planning on celebrating this month.
“I think I speak for all of us Filipinos here that we are just happy to get back to work after this pandemic,” she said laughing. Otherwise, the usual means of celebration is a Fiesta. “[Fiesta’s] are all day affairs,” Lamson said. “We play games and cook and eat lots of Filipino foods like spring rolls, adobo, pansit, and of course lots and lots of rice.”
James Rose, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer